TOPICS > Politics

Shooting at the Capitol

July 24, 1998 at 12:00 AM EDT


JIM LEHRER: For the latest on the shooting at the capitol we go to Kwame Holman, who is there now.

Kwame, I understand there’s still no official confirmation that these two capitol police officers are dead, is that correct?

KWAME HOLMAN: Jim, that is true, from what we know here on the capitol grounds, where dozens of reporters are still encamped gathering information. The word among reporters had been up to an hour ago that at least one of the shot police officers had died. And now, as you say, as you have reported, Reuters has said that two are dead.

JIM LEHRER: All right, now, Kwame, a short while ago you talked to one of the few real eyewitnesses to this. Tell us about your interview and let’s look at it.

KWAME HOLMAN: Jim, it was with Patrick Shall, who for the last six months has been working in the kiosk just inside the center part of the capitol at the gift shop. He works for the historical society and has been assigned here for six months. He talked about the fact that hundreds-a couple of hundred people were in that main area. It’s a big tourist time here in the middle of the summer, and lots of people were there. We talked to Patrick Shall about 40 minutes ago.

PATRICK SHALL, Eyewitness: I heard a gunshot-wasn’t quite sure it was a gunshot, myself. My co-workers kind of continued on with their business. Within three seconds after that, an officer, an armed officer-capitol police officer returned fire from that door into the building, itself. I at that point grabbed the two co-workers, told them to get down. They, in turn, pulled a tourist that happened to be standing pretty near the line of fire into our booth.

Everybody got down on the floor. I kind of laid on top of two others under me, and at that point, I was, of course, elevated, and I could see through my glass-glass display case. I could actually see the officer that was at the front door returning fire. It wasn’t just a shoot-bang, bang, bang. It was more of a three- to four-minute ordeal. He returned at least six to eight shots. There was one person down on the ground, again, a tourist, a person wearing shorts with tennis shoes. He didn’t seem to be moving, but I don’t know if it was because he was protecting himself. As soon as the situation calmed down somewhat–there was still gunfire going on-he was aided outside the door. He was exiting in the period of that time. I don’t know if that person was hit or not.

But the officer that was at the door did everything he possibly could to protect that person. He did an excellent job, the capitol police and the Secret Service did a wonderful job. There was no chaos as far as-of course, there was some once the tourists realized what was going on, but as far as getting ’em out, evacuating the building, nobody was being trampled, nobody was being pushed against walls or doors. Everybody was brought out. The worst thing was some people did get separated, but we were able to help ’em out and get ’em-you know, get the families back together and so forth.

REPORTER: Did you ever see the gunman or have any idea where he was?

PATRICK SHALL: I don’t know if it was the gunman I saw. I did see a commotion. I wouldn’t be able to describe him. It was just some commotion going on over the document door, and immediately following that commotion, a gunshot was heard.

JIM LEHRER: That interview was just a few moments ago. While we have been watching that interview, two capitol police officers went to the top there of the Capitol Building and lowered the flags to half mast, which would, Kwame, seem to indicate that the reports about the deaths of the Capitol police officers are, in fact, correct.

KWAME HOLMAN: Jim, that’s right. And you heard Patrick Shall talk about the response of the Capitol police who he saw. This is a very close-knit cadre of officers that protect these buildings here on Capitol Hill, and those two officers up there just lowered the flag perhaps for-in honor of one, perhaps two of their own.

JIM LEHRER: Okay. Well, Kwame, thank you very much. Maybe before we end the program tonight, there will be some more information that we can report before we go off the air. Thank you very much.